WINNIPEG — No deal has been cut to move the Phoenix Coyotes to Winnipeg, even as a back-up plan, but the NHL has the Manitoba capital on its radar.
A Monday story by the Phoenix Business Journal reported that the NHL had a deal in principle with Canadian billionaire David Thomson and True North Sports and Entertainment, which operates the AHL’s Manitoba Moose and the MTS Centre, to be a "Plan C" for a Coyotes relocation in case current negotiations with Ice Edge Holdings and Jerry Reinsdorf don’t result in a sale of the money-losing franchise.
There is no such Coyotes-to-Winnipeg deal, NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said, but the league continues to have dialogue with True North.
"In response to the many inquiries we have received in light of the story in the Phoenix Business Journal this morning, we would like to make clear that at this point in time the National Hockey League has no ‘deal’ in place to move the Coyotes’ franchise to Winnipeg -- or to any other city for that matter -- in the event a transaction cannot be timely consummated in Glendale," Dal wrote in an email response to questions. "Our focus continues to be on completing a transaction with local ownership that is committed to operating the team in Glendale.
"With respect to Winnipeg and Messrs. Chipman and Thomson, we have had ongoing discussions over time regarding their potential interest in owning an NHL franchise (as we have had with a number of other individuals and cities around North America) and potentially bringing an NHL franchise back to Winnipeg. It remains an intriguing possibility and one we would consider given appropriate circumstances, but there is nothing new to report on that front at this time."
Daly said the league remains confident either Reinsdorf or Ice Edge will arrive at an appropriate arrangement to keep the Coyotes in Glendale.
"Based on the communications and information we are receiving on a regular basis, the stakeholders involved continue to express a high level of confidence that that can be successfully achieved," Daly wrote. "We will not focus on completing arrangements for one or more alternative option(s) until such time as it may become necessary."
Glendale’s city commissioner has been meeting with both groups about a possible lease for the team in the Arizona city and the city’s council will meet again today to debate the matter.
Daly told a Toronto radio station Monday night, though, that the NHL, which owns the team out of last fall’s bankruptcy, won’t be obliged to pay the city anything if no deal can be reached and the team is relocated.
The league has said it will look elsewhere for the solution if no deal can be completed by June to keep the Coyotes in Glendale.